Republican Congress Votes To Allow Defense Contractors To Hide Horrible Abuses Against Workers
According to a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives this week by Congressman Keith Ellison, corporations who do business with the Pentagon as military contractors have been caught stealing five million dollars in wages from their employees. That abuse against workers is just the tip of the iceberg – and sadly, it’s nothing new.
Five years ago, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the issue of rampant abuses against people working for military contractors, including not just wage theft, but also the trafficking of sexual slaves, indentured servitude, with workers virtually held prisoner within barbed wire. At that hearing, Liana Wyler of the Congressional Research Service testified that “recent annual reports on trafficking in persons by the U.S. Department of State acknowledge that government contractors and subcontractors continue to be implicated in allegations of forced labor and sex trafficking,” and reported “frequent instances in which workers paid recruiters brokerage fees, regular confiscation of employee passports, withheld wages, confusing calculations of earnings, unsafe or unsanitary living conditions, and deceptive recruitment practices that exploit workers’ lack of language, education, and information.”
Sam McMahon, a lawyer who specializes in confronting slavery and indentured servitude, explained to the subcommittee how military contractors use recruiters who intentionally deceive workers from foreign companies into paying high employment fees, obtained from loan sharks at extremely high interest rates, with promised wages that are never paid, in order to trap workers in employment for years, without being allowed to contact their families, ending up with no money to show for their labor. These weren’t isolated, random abuses. McMahon told the committee of “hundreds of thousands of laborers” who work under these outrageous conditions.
Five years later, little had been done to deal with these problems… until President Barack Obama issued the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. That order, which is currently under review and should come into effect at the end of this year, requires corporations contracting with the U.S. government to report instances of abuses against workers, and bars the government from awarding new contracts to these corporations if they refuse to comply.
Last month, however, U.S. Representative John Kline introduced an amendment to defense appropriations legislation declaring that the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order “shall not apply to the acquisition, contracting, contract administration, source selection, or any other activities of the Department of Defense or the National Nuclear Security Administration.” Congressman Kline’s amendment was a legislative move designed to allow corporations working as military contractors to continue to profit from sex trafficking, wage theft, indentured servitude, and other serious abuses against their workers. Kline’s amendment was approved and integrated into H.R. 4909, the military appropriations bill.
Keith Ellison responded with an amendment of his own yesterday, reinstating the executive order to require the reporting of extreme abuses against workers by military contractors. The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives wouldn’t even allow a debate on the amendment, however, as they did not want Ellison’s protest to be entered into the Congressional Record. A reading of the text and accompanying information for H.R. 4909 will not reveal the existence of Ellison’s amendment. A search of the Roll Call will only reveal that there were two votes by the House of Representatives on “Ellison of Minnesota Amendment No. 7” and “Ellison of Minnesota Amendment No. 9”.
These amendments were killed by 234 and 238 Republican votes, respectively. What isn’t shown anywhere in the Congressional Record is what these Republican members of Congress were voting against. A good deal of digging is required to discover that. The nature of Ellison’s amendments is not revealed by the Congressional Record, which is exactly how the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives wants to keep things.
How would the Republican Party’s evangelical base react if it found out that Republicans overwhelmingly voted to reject Keith Ellison’s amendments to expose the trafficking of hundreds of thousands of human beings, including sex workers, by military contractors?
We’ll never know, because not one single newspaper, television news journalist, or mainstream news blog has written about the story of yesterday’s Roll Call 212 and Roll Call 213. The coverup by the Republican leadership in Congress has been effective.
Today, Americans will not be reading about how Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to help military contractors keep wage theft, sex trafficking, fraud and indentured servitude secret from the American people. Instead, they’ll be reading about how People Are Drawing Butts On Their Noses And Making Them Twerk and 16 Ways “Shrek” Taught Us All To Be Better Human Beings.